No-touch icing? It’s been the subject of hot debate around the National Hockey League in recent years.
But there were no takers for the potential rule change among the featured panel during the latest installment of the Ottawa Senators luncheon series held Wednesday at Scotiabank Place’s Club Red.
Guests at the sold-out affair – which made its debut in June as part of NHL draft week festivities – heard from a panel that included Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg and defenceman Alex Picard, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren and Brian Kilrea, the legendary Hall of Fame coach of the Ottawa 67’s.
Highlighting the discussion was a debate about no-touching icing, a concept that has been part of junior hockey for a number of years now. Hockey Night in Canada commentator Don Cherry has been its loudest advocate in NHL circles, pointing toward several players injured in high-speed chases for the puck to support his argument – the latest involving Minnesota Wild defenceman Kurtis Foster last season.
But don’t count Hartsburg, who came to the Senators from the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, among its supporters.
“There are obviously dangers (with) no-touch icing,” said Hartsburg, a former NHL blueliner with the Minnesota North Stars. “But what I found in junior hockey is that it slows the game down … I think you have to look at it but you also have to look at some modifications.
“I just don’t think you should go to no-touch icing because it slows the game down.”
Picard acknowledged the severity of the Foster injury but admitted eliminating touch icing would remove an exciting element from the game.
“Some of the players are so fast right now and they’re so big, and they come right at you,” said Picard. “It’s not only the physical contact (that is a concern) but if you catch a bad edge on the ice or something like that, you can go feet first into the boards.
“It’s part of the game and it makes it exciting, too.”
Holmgren believes it’s up to the players to show the necessary respect for opponents to prevent any potential injuries.
“There is an exciting element in that race for the puck,” said the Flyers GM. “It’s similar to me to the hitting from behind along the boards. The players themselves have to look at this as an issue and just use common sense.
“We have far too many stoppages in play in our game already and to look at no-touch icing, I think, would be a mistake.”
Kilrea, the only member of the panel currently involved in junior hockey, indicated no-touch icing has been a part of the game there for so long that he can’t remember playing without it. But he isn’t necessarily against the NHL’s way of doing things.
“I like the idea that you have to be competitive to go back and get the puck and/or you can avoid an icing or maybe win a game by having a faceoff in your own end,” he said. “I realize you can have injuries. But if you’re playing the puck and sometimes not so much the man, it would reduce some of the injury (potential).”